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air conditionerAir conditioning systems are crucial to comfort in Southwest Florida, and whether you are installing a new system or having one repaired, it is a good idea to know a few air conditioning basics to simplify the process.

How an Air Conditioner Works

Refrigerant enters the evaporator coil indoors as a cool, low-pressure liquid, where it absorbs heat as a fan circulates indoor air over the coil. This boils the refrigerant, turning it into a gas. Exiting the evaporator, the refrigerant enters the compressor, which increases the pressure of the refrigerant, heating it further, and pumps it through the system.

The refrigerant then enters the condenser coil, where it loses heat and cools to a liquid, using a fan that blows outside air over the coils. Finally, the high-pressure, cool liquid flows through an expansion valve, reducing its pressure, and back into the evaporator to repeat the cycle.

Efficiency Rating

One of the most important air conditioning basics to learn about is the SEER or seasonal energy efficiency ratio. This number indicates how much energy is used by the system over a cooling season, with higher numbers indicating more efficient performance and lower cooling costs. Typical models have a SEER of 13 to 16, while the best have a SEER of 20 or above.

Size

The cooling capacity of a central air conditioner is typically rated in tons, or the ability of the system to remove 12,000 British thermal units, or BTUs, of heat per hour. A 5-ton system, for example, would remove 60,000 BTUs of heat. Smaller air conditioners, like window units, may be rated in BTUs alone.

Types

Central air systems feature a condenser unit, a single evaporator and a system of ducts to deliver air. Ductless systems have an evaporator and air handler in each room, connected to a single condenser, eliminating the ducts and simplifying installation. Heat pumps are similar to central air systems, but can be reversed to provide heat, as well.

For more information on air conditioning basics, contact our team at Conditioned Air today. We serve Southwest Florida, from Bradenton to Marco Island.

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cooling systemOnce the heat and humidity reach their peak in the Southwest Florida region, it can be difficult to keep your air conditioning costs under control. By taking a few steps to boost cooling system efficiency, however, you can lessen the effects of the higher temperatures and save money, while still remaining comfortable.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

One of the easiest and most effective ways to boost cooling system efficiency is by replacing your older thermostat with a new programmable model, then optimizing it to fit your schedule perfectly. By raising the temperature 10 degrees while you are at work or away, and reducing it just before you arrive home, you can reduce your cooling costs by up to 20 percent. Try to find a model that fits your routine, such as one with a separate program for weekends and weekdays, if you have a standard business schedule, or one with an individual program for each day, if your schedule is more flexible. The newest models offer features like self-programming, Wi-Fi connectivity and touchscreen interfaces that make them simple and convenient to use.

Maintain Your Air Conditioning System

Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the condenser and evaporator coils, replacing the air filter and cleaning the air handler, can keep your air conditioner running more efficiently and extend its lifespan. Have your system professionally inspected and serviced at least twice a year for the best results, and check the air filter yourself monthly.

Reduce Heat Gain

Adding extra heat during the daytime can make your cooling system work harder to keep you comfortable. Seal and insulate your home to prevent unnecessary heat gain, and close blinds or curtains during the day to block solar gain. Postpone heat-generating activities like bathing, cooking, laundry or washing dishes until the evening, and be sure to use exhaust fans to eliminate extra humidity. Replace inefficient incandescent bulbs with LEDS or fluorescents to save energy and reduce heat output.

For more ways to boost cooling system efficiency, talk to our experts at Conditioned Air, serving Ft. Myers, Naples and Sarasota since 1962.

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air conditioner in rainIn Southwest Florida, heavy rains are common, especially as tropical storms or hurricanes approach. If you have ever wondered “Does rain affect my air conditioning unit,” the short answer is “No.” In most cases, rain is safe for your air conditioning system, though there are some exceptions, and a few precautions to take during strong storms.

The Effects of Rain on Your Air Conditioning

The outside portion of a central air conditioning system, known as the outdoor unit or condenser unit, houses both the condenser and the compressor, as well as a system fan, electrical connections and other accessories. Most of the components are made from aluminum, copper, plastics and other materials that are not prone to corrosion or damage from moisture, and the electrical connections are sealed, allowing the system to run properly even in heavy rain.

Only during heavy flooding, when the condenser is partially or completely submerged, should you shut the air conditioning system off, which can be done using the breakers in your main electrical panel. If the system is submerged for a significant period of time, have it inspected by an air conditioning contractor before tuning it back on.

Should the Condenser be Covered?

In most cases, the condenser unit should never be covered. Rain cannot harm the condenser, as long as the moisture can evaporate freely, and neither can the cooler weather of a Florida winter. In colder climates, some people cover the condenser during the winter to prevent accumulations of snow, leaves and debris, but it is not necessary. In fact, it can actually cause damage by trapping condensation beneath the cover, leading to corrosion and other damage.

The only time that you should cover the condenser is during extremely strong storms, such as hurricanes, to prevent damage from wind-blown debris. For this purpose, something strong, like plywood, should be secured with the power off, and it should be removed immediately after the storm. Otherwise, simply keep the condenser free of debris, and rinse the dirt out periodically.

When you have questions like “Does rain affect my air conditioning unit” or if you need air conditioning service, contact our team at Conditioned Air for helpful answers and HVAC advice.